Thursday, 12 March 2015

Dog tales........

Small Dog had her quarterly grooming session today.  A Yorkie's hair grows continuously and doesn't shed, so she goes from looking like a newly shorn lamb to a Hungarian Puli in about 4 months.

We used to groom her ourselves, back in the day when we were full of derring do and cared not a whit about the potential loss of a finger or two.  The whole pantomime would take the best part of half a day and generally left all three of us prostrate and trembling.

She may look like butter wouldn't melt, and most of the time she's good as gold, but approach her with any sort of cutting implement and after a brief goodwill period (which usually only allows for emergency fringe or eye hair trimming) she undergoes a Jekyll/Hyde transformation and it's everyone for themselves.

Over the years I've blogged our various attempts at canine coiffeur.....

Terrier Trauma


Barbers of St. Leonards

....some of which were more successful than others.

In the fullness of time, we discovered, via our vet, the whereabouts of a dog groomer with an excellent reputation for dealing with 'difficult' dogs so with a certain amount of trepidation we took her along.

Her first grooming session, several years ago, seemed to go well.  We collected a live dog and the groomer still had her full complement of fingers and thumbs.  I did cautiously enquire about how Small Dog had behaved and was informed that she'd been an angel.

I repeat..... "An angel"

To say we were sceptical is putting it mildly.  Every time we've dropped her off I've left with a feeling of impending doom.  Her session takes an hour so we usually drive to a nearby shop for a bit of a mooch before returning at the allotted time.

Today, I arrived to collect her on time, but there was a bit of a queue and the door to the workshop was open so I was able to look in from outside.  I could see Small Dog up on the bench, still being done, so I hid where she wouldn't be able to see me in order to watch proceedings.

What I saw was quite simply unbelievable.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never, IN A MILLION YEARS have believed it actually happened.

There she sat, calm as you like, while the groomer wielded electric clippers, scissors, nail clippers, spray stuff......  she stood up when she was asked and sat quietly the rest of the time with no hint of the whirling dervish I had expected.  

On another bench a Westie was whining and trying to struggle out of its harness while its bath was being prepared and Small Dog glanced over at it with an expression which clearly said "Oh for goodness sake.... what a fuss!"

She didn't make a sound when the clippers were whirring, or scissors snipping..... and while she didn't actually OFFER her paw to have her nails clipped, she apparently willingly allowed the groomer to lift and clip them.  She even submitted to having the hair between her paw pads trimmed and nice smelling stuff sprayed on her tummy.


All these years I've been wandering round that shop imagining traumatic scenes in which Small Dog was being wrestled into submission and suspended from various torture chamber apparatus designed to completely immobilise her and prevent her wreaking havoc in a flurry of teeth and claws.

All these years, when picking her up I have closely scrutinised the groomer for signs of exhaustion, post traumatic stress, and/or flesh wounds.

All these years, when I've asked how she's been, the groomer has assured me she's been fine, no problem at all, the best behaved Yorkie they have on their books.

And all these years I haven't believed a single word.

I wish I'd had my phone with me to record video evidence of her compliance and apparent insouciance but I'd left it in the car.  I'm not entirely convinced that PP believes me either, although I have solemnly sworn it's the truth.

Admittedly, Small Dog has been rather subdued since we got home.  I suspect it's because she knows her cover has been blown.  


Does this mean we will be resuming her grooming ourselves? 

No it bloody doesn't.  I'd pay DOUBLE  not to have to do it, and now that I know that she (or anyone else) isn't being traumatised I feel doubly certain that it's money well spent.

Anyway..... here's her Before and After photos.....

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring cleaning......

The last few days of (mostly) wall to wall sunshine, and gradually increasing temperatures have tempted me to throw off my winter languor in anticipation of an early spring.
This unaccustomed  spurt of energy and enthusiasm has even spurred me into tackling the first tentative stages of preparation for our spring project - the redecoration of our bedroom.

Attentive blog readers with l-o-n-g memories may remember that almost EXACTLY a year ago I was of a similar mind.... girding my loins to make a start on the bedroom redecoration of which I speak.  I even blogged my plans and intentions HERE.

A whole year ago.

My, my.  Doesn't time fly...?

The go-getters amongst you will be wondering why on earth we didn't just get on and do it.  Admittedly, the gigantic triple wardrobe is a major stumbling block, but there's also the small matter of the smallest bedroom, which is full to bursting with all manner of miscellaneous 'stuff'. 

It's like one of those rooms from 'The Hoarder Next Door', although I hasten to add that we only have ONE room in the house so full of stuff you can hardly get in.  All the other rooms are perfectly habitable and clutter-free.  *cough*

Anyway..... if we are to transform the smallest bedroom into a dressing room, freeing up space in the main bedroom, there are a number of inter-dependent steps which have to take place in an pre-ordained order.

It's a bit like those little sliding tile picture puzzles where you have to move ALL of the tiles around in order to complete the picture. 

So, in order to decorate our bedroom we first have to empty the smallest bedroom WITHOUT cluttering up all the other rooms in the house with stuff we don't know what to do with.  We have taken a solemn oath that ANYTHING we don't want or need will be -
  • Offered to friends and relatives
  • Taken to charity shops
  • Freecycled
  • Taken to the recycling unit
I'm sure you will agree that's a damn fine plan.  And it is.  

However, that small bedroom seems to be at the centre of some sort of alien energy vortex. I went upstairs earlier completely determined to get right in there and sort it out.

No shilly-shallying.
No prevarication.
No sloping off for displacement activity.

Just straight in and tackle it, methodically and ruthlessly.

However, as soon as I set foot in there, and stood, gazing around at the piles of books, files, boxes, more boxes, more books...... I just felt all the energy and determination drain out of me and disappear into the ether.

This has happened every time.  The best I've ever managed in the past year has been to stir it a bit with a stick while I was trying to reach something I needed which was right at the back.
Hence the stick.


Not today however.  

I'm pleased to report that we have MADE A START.  There's still a long way to go but we now have several piles of stuff in the dining room, designated as recycling, or freecycling, or charity shop.

Now that we've started to make a mess it will be easier (I hope) to carry on, and do a bit each day.  As I said, it is a very small room but it does seem capable of holding an inordinate amount of stuff.  Which bears out my alien vortex theory.

Needless to say, I haven't just been making a mess upstairs and in the dining room.  I've also been having a clearout in the workroom, preparatory to relocating some of the work-related stuff from the bedroom, so there's a mess in there too.

 However, the good thing about having a clearout is you find stuff you didn't even know you had.

Such as......

I don't know what possessed me to buy this.  It was only £1 in a charity shop and it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  It's still sealed so I haven't had a chance to peruse the instruction booklet, CD of tap dance music, or see if the heel and toe taps will glue onto my slippers.  However, the box assures me that in no time I'll be skipping the light fantastic just like Ginger Rogers.

Yeah..... right!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Work in progress - Day 4

Mignonette presentation boxes from the late 1800s usually contained a selection of doll costumes and accessories, so Rose will have her own micro miniature layette and toilette.

Inside the lid, the silk pad holds three different silk dresses with matching hats and bonnets.

On the left a pale pink silk dress with fancy silk buds and bows bodice with a matching dainty silk and lace hat above.  In the centre a long sleeved, drop-waisted white silk dress with pleated skirt.  Top centre is the matching pleated silk and lace bonnet, trimmed with pale and dusky pink buds and bows trim.  On the left is a dusky pink silk dress, overlaid with fine cotton lace and a matching silk and lace cap.

The dresses are all on tiny silver hangers, with a loop to allow me to pin them onto the pad.  
Even the pins will be decorated.....

Making tiny costumes like these, 'off the doll' presents a challenge, especially as they have to be the correct scale to fit the doll for which they are intended.

Tomorrow...... the accessories for Rose's toilette.

Online Show Workshop......

The online March Mini Miniature Show will take place from 19-22 March.  

Again, we are offering a workshop, which has been specially designed for this show......

Half scale wicker crib with porcelain baby toy doll

Using our kit you will learn how to make a little wicker crib using a traditional basketweave pattern.  The wooden base has pre-drilled holes, and everything you need (apart from glue) is included.  It has neat little wooden bun feet and is decorated with a fine silk braid.
The crib is available in a choice of two colours as shown - white or natural.

Nestling inside is a tiny 1" tall porcelain baby, with jointed arms and legs.  When dressed she wears silk underwear,  cobweb-fine silk net and lace dress with lacy bodice.  Her hair peeks out from under a dainty little lace cap, finished with a silk rosette bow.

Both kits come complete with fully illustrated, step-by-step instructions.

This set can be used in a 1/24th scale setting, or as a toy crib and baby doll for a 1/12th scale child.

The baby costume pack is available in a choice of four pastel colours - ivory, pale pink, pale blue and pale green.

The crib measures 1  3/10" long,  3/4" wide and 1" tall
The baby measures 1" tall

Workshop fee - $38        £25        Euro 35
Shipping is extra so please let me know your country of residence so that I can add the relevant amount - UK £4      US & Canada $7.65     Europe 6.90

Places are limited, so to reserve a workshop pack please contact me to check availability.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Work in progress - Day 3


My Mignonette doll box is now decorated inside and out.  There will be more embellishments to add to the lid but today I wanted to get on with the interior.

I made two silk covered pads, one for the base and the other for inside the lid.  I'm experimenting with a way to make them easily removable, but also able to stay in place whether the lid is open or closed.

The jury is out on whether my method will work or not but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Now, meet Rose, the little Jumeau-style mignonette doll I've made specially for this box.

As with all of my dolls, she is completely handmade, by me.  She started out as a few thimblefuls of porcelain slip and over the course of several weeks, and 5 kiln firings finally emerged as a china-painted porcelain doll, with jointed arms and legs.  She measures a smidgen under 1  3/4" tall, which is small.

She wears a complete costume, from her silk underwear and dainty silk shoes with leather soles, to her pleated silk dress and fine hairstripe silk coat, which is decorated with buds and bows silk trim.  Her blonde wig falls in ringlet curls from beneath a jaunty toque bonnet.

Attached to her costume is a little vintage-style card, proclaiming her Parisian origins.

Now that she is completed, tomorrow I'll move onto her costumes and accessories......

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Work in progress - Day 2

With the paint dry and my printed sheets 'cured', it's time to move on to decorating the box, inside and out.

There are 14 sides/edges to the base, and another 14 to the lid making a total of 28 separate surfaces to cover, and trust me, it's not easy.

I discovered early on, when I was making my initial prototype boxes that I needed twice as many sheets of paper as I thought I would, especially if I wanted to centre the patterns and have them matching all the way round.

I also discovered that using glue to fix the paper in place was a disaster.  Despite using very expensive coated paper, it soaked up the glue, swelling and expanding, then rippling and warping when applied to the box.  Also, even the slightest drop of glue on the printed side left marks which were impossible to remove.

Several prototypes ended up in the bin while I tried an assortment of different glues and  a variety of methods of application, none of which proved successful.

So after extensive research, I invested in a machine which applies a very thin, completely even layer of dry adhesive on the back of the paper.  This solved the problem of the paper warping but as the adhesive is permanent, I only get one chance to precisely place the paper in position.  If I get it wrong it has to come off and that piece is not reusable.

It's a long, painstaking process, applying each of the 28 individual printed paper pieces carefully and methodically.  However, another advantage of using a dry adhesive is that I can trim any excess immediately, using a surgically sharp scalpel blade, without having to wait for the paper to dry.

The lining is different to the paper used on the outside.  I made separate floral strips to tie both designs together and to neaten all the edges.

With the box fully decorated, I then added four little metal feet.

Tomorrow..... starting to fit out the interior.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Work in progress.... Day 1

Last month, (February) I successfully managed to complete all of my outstanding orders and commissions with one full day to spare, so I've been celebrating my time windfall by making a start on a new Mignonette doll box.

You may recall that back in January I listed my very first Mignonette doll box on Ebay...... I posted the details HERE.

Violet is now settled into her new home in Toronto, Canada and since then I've been planning another......

These little boxes take a l-o-n-g time to make so I thought it might be interesting to show just what goes into the creation of one.

I made the first one from layers and layers of thick card, but my latest one is made of wood, and here is the basic box.

The proportions are just perfect.  It's made with proper dovetail joints and the little brass hinges are cleverly and neatly hidden within the box construction and practically invisible.
The lid is deep enough to hold a selection of tiny costumes and accessories.

I intend to fully decorate the box, inside and out and have an idea to do something special on the inside edges, but as some of the wood will show, first I have to paint them......

After sanding the edges, they are given three coats of paint.

While the paint is drying, it's time to choose the papers to decorate the box.  It's practically impossible to find scrapbooking papers in small scale, so I decided to make my own, resizing several different digital images and tiling them to fit on an A4 page.  It took a couple of tries before I had exactly the right size and shade range, but once they were done I printed several sheets of each on special high quality coated card, which gives the crisp print and colour quality I want.

These sheets also have to dry and 'set' thoroughly for 24 hours before I can use them, so I used some of the remaining time yesterday to make the little decorative tag with will adorn the top of the box.....

So far so good.  Tomorrow I'll be decorating the box, inside and out.